Outline of four hands pointing in towards eachother
Annual NTF Symposia

Collaboration with the Cambridge University Health Partners to address Talent and Skills challenges and increase the civic impact of Higher Education

Professor Claire V.S. Pike, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Enhancement), Anglia Ruskin University 

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is a relatively new member of the Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP) – one of eight Academic Health Science Centres in England in which universities work with regional NHS Trusts for public benefit. As its core mission, CUHP aims to improve lives by leveraging the benefits of scientific discovery, via translational application and delivery across the local region, and globally.  

ARU is leading the ‘Talent’ Pillar of the Cambridgeshire 2050 Life Sciences Vision – which intersects with complementary work in the ‘Place’, ‘Network’, ‘Data’ and ‘Funding’ Pillars. Our research and consultation regarding Talent challenges in the region has encompassed: comprehensive desk-based research on Talent/Skills gaps; four stakeholder workshops held throughout the geographical region and online; discussion with the global Life Sciences Council; and an ecosystem-wide launch event in February 2023. 

As a result of this consultation, we have identified significant ecosystem Talent/Skills gaps in: specialist areas, including laboratory technical skills, data sciences/machine learning/AI, green skills and advanced manufacturing; commercial and business/people management skills, needed to help start-ups grow and scale; and entry-level Talent throughout the ecosystem, including roles in healthcare support, catering and facilities management. We have crystallised of a set of key recommendations, now entering an implementation stage: 

1. Enable communication and collaboration through establishing or supporting fora to enable aligned and collaborative solutions to Talent needs; 

2. Support the establishment of an Opportunities Hub to facilitate educational placements and apprenticeships; 

3. Target, attract, develop and share mentorship expertise for Business, operational and commercial Talent; 

4. Common recruitment of rare roles, Talent pooling and Skills sharing; 

5. Encourage inward investors to bring in new Talent. 

As part of early implementation, ARU is co-developing and launching new curricula to meet employer need. For example, our Laboratory Scientist degree apprenticeship was developed in collaboration with locally based bioscience and pharmaceutical companies – including global forms and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) – and will welcome its first intake in September 2023. We have also entered initial conversations around providing specialist education to meet Talent needs in Medical Engineering, Perfusion, and Intellectual Property. 

We are in the exploratory stages of acting as a regional ‘organising force’ to reduce barriers to educational participation. Such action involves careful partnership working with regional FE and Skills providers, local government, employers’ organisations, and regional fora – including Innovate Cambridge, Cambridge Ahead and the Eastern Powerhouse. Our vision of an ‘Opportunities Hub’ would: help members of the public and employers identify and access education and training where and when needed; enable the engagement of SMEs with apprenticeships, internships and practice-based learning; and facilitate education and mentorship in business, commercial and management skills for growing biotech teams. In a mature form, it could even act as a Flexi-job Apprenticeship Agency. 

First strides toward a joined-up regional educational offer include the articulation between T-level Laboratory Sciences at Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, and the ARU Laboratory Scientist degree apprenticeship course – employers are invited to offer a work-placement to students in their second T-level year, which would give both employer and student the opportunity to assess whether the offer of a degree apprenticeship employment contract is the mutually correct next move. 

Overall, partnership working in this complex and fast-moving space is endlessly fascinating, and has the potential to create significant educational and civic impact if executed correctly. 

Image: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Twitter: Explore #ARUProud for more details about this activity